Why Did Professor Tomoe Sacrifice Hotaru?

Hotaru Taken by a Tragic Explosion

Hotaru Taken by a Tragic Explosion

Now, far be it from me to pass judgment on what makes a good and bad parent, but I’ve always found it… questionable that Professor Souichi Tomoe chose to implant a daimon egg in his daughter (and only surviving member of his family after the tragic death of his wife), which ultimately allowed Mistress 9 to take control of Hotaru. While this plot device – or one like it – was obviously necessary for the progression of the Death Busters story arc, I wasn’t completely satisfied with that answer. After all, Ms. Takeuchi is pretty well known for putting meaning behind the most insignificant details, right? While most of what’s written in this post is just speculation on my part, I think there’s enough evidence to at least give it some serious consideration. So let’s take a closer look!

Even mad scientists need to eat...

Even mad scientists need to eat…

While I’m generally a fan of the Occam’s Razor1 school of thought (i.e., that the simplest explanation is the most likely to be true), when it comes to explaining the personalities and backgrounds of the characters of the Sailor Moon series, Ms. Takeuchi has proven to prefer depth and complexity. In order to answer the question about Hotaru and her father’s questionable parenting practices, we again look to Greco-Roman mythology for a little context.

Cronus, the Greek god on which Saturn was based,2 had something of a bad habit when it came to eating his own children. Seeing as he had castrated and overthrown his own father, Uranus, in order to become the ruler of the universe,3 it’s somewhat understandable that Cronus would worry about his own children wanting to topple him. In fact, he was told by Uranus and Gaia (his mother) that his own son would be his undoing. In order to put a stop to that, he would eat his children shortly after they were born.

Though canonically we would accept Hotaru as the character representative of Saturn/Cronus when it comes to her portrayal within the Sailor Moon series – indeed, Saturn was often depicted with a scythe/sickle similar to the Silence Glaive – I wonder if it’s also possible to look at the story as it’s applied to her. Though Professor Tomoe clearly cared about his daughter and sought to save her life, implanting the daimon egg within her and allowing Mistress 9 to possess Hotaru seemed to be connected with his desire to further his research (which is what caused the accident in the first place) and completely separate from his efforts to keep Hotaru alive.

Professor Tomoe – Not All There?

Professor Tomoe – Not All There?

While one could naturally point out the obvious difference in eating your own children and what Professor Tomoe did, the results are not so dissimilar when you take a look at the motivations behind them: like Cronus, Professor Tomoe was willing to sacrifice his own child in order to further his own goals in his quest for power.

This could all very well be just a coincidence, but seeing how much effort Ms. Takeuchi went even to match up star signs and birthdays for all of the characters, it’s definitely not out of the realm of possibilities. So what do you think? Do you think that Professor Tomoe’s treatment of Hotaru was in reference to the Greek origins of the character? Just a plot device? Maybe some other theory…? I’d love to hear it!

[Sailor Games] Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon R (Super Famicom)

Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon R for the Super Famicom (1993)

Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon R for the Super Famicom (1993)

Following up on the success of the success of the first Super Famicom Sailor Moon game released on August 27, 1993, Angel followed up on its success with yet another side-scrolling beat ’em up just 4 months later, on December 29, 1993,1 this time based on the Sailor Moon R anime. Though its apparent that a lot of material was re-used between the two games in order to cut out on time needed for programming and art design, there’s a surprising amount of new content to the game and the fighting engine has been greatly upgraded, so it really does stand out well on its own. Let’s take a look!

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Why Did the Sailor Soldiers Fight in School Uniforms?

Off to School with the Sailor Team

Off to School with the Sailor Team

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s completely out of the question, taken from a Western point of view (and assuming no prior influences by anime or other aspects of Japanese pop culture), the very idea of a super hero transforming into a powered-up version of their own school uniform seems downright silly. It goes without saying that the entire premise behind the name of the series itself is based on the fact that they’re wearing uniforms styled after late-19th century European navies,1 but there has to be something more to the fact that these soldiers of love and justice are, sailor-suited, right? As usual, this is a rhetorical question, and the answer is most certainly yes! But let’s take a deeper look into the why.

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Why Did the Outer Senshi Use Lipstick in Their Transformations?

The Outer Senshi Applying Lipstick

The Outer Senshi Applying Lipstick

This is yet another one of those questions that I’ve been wondering about for a long time that could either be something as simple as a design choice made up by either the animation staff or Ms. Takeuchi herself, or might actually have some sort of deeper meaning behind it. After all, the staff behind the Sailor Moon anime didn’t hesitate to make some pretty far-reaching, if arbitrary, decisions to alter characters personalities. However, for the most part, most of their changes were for the sake of adding in additional meaning to the anime as references for astute fans.

So why is it that, while every one of the Sailor Soldiers either has their nails painted during their transformation (or showcases their painted nails during when transforming into their Super forms), the adding of lipstick is a characteristic unique to the Outer Sailor Soldiers. Making things all the more interesting is that Sailor Saturn is excluded from this quirk, and her transformation clearly showcases her magical manicure.

Sailor Moon's Magical Manicure

Sailor Moon’s Magical Manicure

As best as I can determine, this design choice was most likely made in consideration of the target audience of the anime, and what is actually considered “adult” to them. After having watched, read, and played Sailor Moon in its myriad of forms, it’s easy to forget that the magical items they use are real-world items and that their “Make Up” transformation phrase is not only a nifty thing to shout, but also directly references the transformations these young girls are making into sailor-suited heroines. And in this case, it also is referencing real-world make-up.

According to a 2014 web survey conducted by My Navi Woman1 on women’s age when they first wore lipstick, the number one response was 18 years old, at 20.3%. Though the second most common response, 12 or younger, was at 19.8%, this actually is in the minority when you calculate the rest of the ages together. Taken as a whole, >60% of women responded that they were either 16 years or older when they first used lipstick. The same age range, incidentally, as Haruka, Michiru, and Setsuna.

Inner Senshi Manicure Set

Inner Senshi Manicure Set

But for those numbers to be meaningful, we need to know about Japanese manicure trends. Fortunately, Benesse did a survey in 20112 with Japanese parents on just that. As early as 6 years old, 44.1% and 26.5% of girls were reported to being either interested in or actually painting their nails, respectively. Though the painting of nails is still forbidden in the vast majority of Japanese schools – even through high school! – it nicely highlights the point on what kind of makeup girls Usagi’s age and younger have in mind.

While this is by no means any sort of definitive proof of why the three talisman-bearing Sailor Soldiers all have lipstick applied when they transform, I think it does at least give an interesting insight into Japanese attitudes toward makeup which may differ from those in the West.

If I were to wager a guess, I would say that the point in doing it this way was to highlight the age difference between the new and mysterious Sailor Soldiers being introduced in the Death Busters Arc and to give them an added sense of maturity. It also explains why Hotaru goes along with the others in just having her nails painted. What do you think about all this? Do you think there was any sort of deeper meaning behind it, or just a stylistic choice of the animators?

What Do the Colors on Sailor Moon’s Brooch Mean?

Sailor Moon's Transformation Brooch

Sailor Moon’s Transformation Brooch

I’d like to thank a reader for sending this in because, I have to admit, that it the colors used in Sailor Moon’s brooch were just so natural that I never bothered to question it. But when you stop and take a look, you can’t help but wonder if there’s any method to the madness, any sort of order behind how Ms. Takeuchi arranged the colors as why. More specifically, the question posed is as follows:

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What is the Inspiration for the Spiral Heart Moon Rod?

The Spiral Heart Moon Rod

The Spiral Heart Moon Rod

Throughout her time as a sailor-suited soldier of love and justice, dedicating her days to boring school work and evenings to punishing evil in the name of the moon, Sailor Moon has gone through quite a few different magical items and all manners of attacks. While I’m personally a fan of the traditional Moon Stick, which I think we can all agree has a pretty lackluster name, the inspiration behind the Spiral Heart Moon Rod is fascinating in its own right.

What makes the Spiral Heart Moon Rod so interesting is that its design, like the designs of other important items in the Sailor Moon canon, appears to be based on a real rod – a scepter1 – in the possession of the British Royal Family. Specifically, I’m referring to the Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross,2 part of the coronation regalia of the British monarchy.

The Sovereign's Scepter with Cross and Spiral Heart Moon Rod

The Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross and Spiral Heart Moon Rod

In addition to the remarkable similarities in their general appearance, which is pretty convincing in its own, it’s also noteworthy that the Sovereign’s Scepter contains within it Cullinan I,3 the clearest cut diamond in the world – not too dissimilar from the legendary Silver Crystal itself! The curving lines reminiscent of a heart, the crown design on top, and the crystal embedded within all make this a pretty convincing basis for the design.

Cullinan I

Cullinan I

Taking into consideration that the talismans were also based on Western designs, it seems pretty fitting to me that Ms. Takeuchi would choose such a famous item from the crown jewels to use as the basis for her design. It also ties in nicely with her role as heir to the Silver Millennium and the future Neo-Queen of Crystal Tokyo.

Since we know that Ms. Takeuchi incredibly well-informed and clearly did a lot of research into various crystals, I think it would definitely be worthwhile to take a closer look at some of the broaches throughout the seasons, or maybe some of the other various sticks, wands, and scepters wielded by Sailor Moon. Just seeing something real that looks so similar really gives you a sense for just how impressive her attacks must have looked to the enemies she faces.

But what about you? What was your favorite of her weapons, and why? I’ve always loved the simplicity of the Moon Stick and how it even evolved once the Silver Crystal was added to it, but that’s just me. I’d love to hear other people’s opinions!

What’s So Super About Super Sailor Moon?

Transforming Into Super Sailor Moon

Transforming Into Super Sailor Moon

Depending on how you take it, this question could either be existential, painfully obvious, a bizarre linguistics mystery, or an interesting mix of all three. Just to be clear, we’re not actually discussing the relative power of Sailor Moon’s attacks or why the series is called Sailor Moon in the first place, but rather what was the reason for having her powered up form being called “Super Sailor Moon.” Couldn’t she just power up without needing a new name?

She's not just good, she's super!

She’s not just good, she’s super!

Well, as with a lot of things in Japanese media, answering this question requires us to take a look back at the social and historical context that the Sailor Moon series was created in. As original and unique as the series is, and as much work as Ms. Takeuchi put in to make such a rich and diverse world for her characters to live within, the series was still greatly impacted by the pop culture of the country it was founded in.

You see, throughout the mid- to late-1980s and into the 1990s, Japan had something of a love affair with the word “super,” not much unlike how “x-treme” (and various variations thereon) became synonymous with sports, soft drinks, and pretty much any product or TV show marketed to anyone under the age of 30 in the US from the late 1990s and early 2000s.1 Japan’s (…bubble) economy was going strong,2 and the word “super” seems to have been picked up by marketers to show how their product was new and improved.

The most obvious example that you’re probably all aware of is the upgrade from the Famicom/Nintendo to the Super Famicom/Super Nintendo, but this goes back much earlier. Following the Nintendo connection, the sequel/upgrade to the smash hit “Mario Bros.” was “Super Mario Bros.”3 But as we’re about to see, characters being “leveled up” so-to-speak isn’t the only way that the word super had infected Japanese culture.

1988 Commercial for Asahi Super Dry

1988 Commercial for Asahi Super Dry

In 1987 the Asahi Beer company, wanting to expand their business from a paltry 10% of the Japanese beer market, launched the Asahi Super Dry product line. This sparked off what is known as the “Dry Wars” among Japanese beer producers,4 who were all trying to capture the budding dry beer5 market.

Other noteworthy examples include the Super Saiyan form6 in Dragon Ball Z in 1991, the Super-VHS video standard7 introduced in 1987, and the proposed upgrade to the floppy disk – the so-called SuperDisk8 – in 1997. Taking a look at anime titles alone, you can see the trend pretty clearly:9

So what does this all mean, then? Essentially what this means is that during this particular time in Japan, the word “super” was a popular marketing buzz word used to convey to the audience that this was a new, upgrade, improved version of a previous product. That’s not to say that the concept didn’t exist in the west – Superman predates this marketing buzz in Japan by nearly half a century. But what’s interesting about all this is that, taken as a whole, what Ms. Takeuchi was trying to emphasizing by powering Usagi (and, later, the rest of the Sailor Soldiers) up into her Super form.

A Survivor of the Dry Wars

A Survivor of the Dry Wars

Taking into consideration how deeply this was all affected by the words, language, and other series and products out at the time, it makes me wonder what the upgraded form of Sailor Moon would’ve been called if the series came out today? Mega like in Pokémon?10 Though I’m a fan of the Super and Eternal forms, I’d love to know how things would’ve changed if the series had been made today!

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